Let’s play a game. This game is called, “Spot the Legible Title.”
Here are the choices – you’ll probably want to remember them for later.
Despite the relative newness of online video and online video optimization, this game has been around for a while. From 17th-century book binders to modern-day web designers, the art of legibility has been passed down to each new generation of typographic engineers and enjoyed by everyday folk like you and me (who have little clue that they are being visually manipulated into rapid word comprehension).
What is legibility, exactly? In a nutshell, “legibility” is the quality of being clear enough to read.
Seems simple enough.
Presumably, if you can read English that should mean you can read English words in any typeface. In any letter case. With any stylistic modifications.
Despite this map being written in Modern English (the kind we still read and write in) and using words familiar to most English speakers, the street names are hard to riddle out. Not impossible, of course – just more time-consuming than would be ideal for, say, catching the attention of a YouTube viewer.
Now, you may be thinking, “Come on, vidIQ blog. Obviously, no one is going to be writing YouTube video titles in Teutonic No.1 font with a 45-degree tilt on a #F7E2D1 hexadecimal background. That would be madness (especially since everyone knows YouTube uses Alternate Gothic No. 2 – jeez).”
If only it were that simple, dear reader. Because legibility isn’t just about font – it’s about LeTt3R Ca$iNg too.
Letter casing is legibility’s dirty little secret – while web designers try, retry, re-retry, and then meticulously align different fonts against their elegantly engineered landing pages, the real fight for reading comprehension is in the Social Media trenches. With preordained sans-serif letters flung across the World Wide Web in Facebook feeds, on Pinterest boards, and – yes – even on YouTube Watch Pages, user attention spans are shortening while legibility efforts are dwindling.
You see, unless text is completely legible, it takes longer to read.
How much longer? A fraction of a second, maybe, for each imperfectly-legible letter. But second fragments, as any internet professional knows, are critical when potential consumers are scanning web pages, feeds, and search results. So, if you’re invested in your content’s text being quickly understood (or, really, being not simply ignored), it helps to type legibly.
To understand the effect of shrewdly-chosen letter casing, consider this…
long text strings that are written in lower case letters evoke a softness and nonchalance that is brutally absent when sentences, headlines, or paragraphs are written in all caps. alas, this softly sloped and undemanding case type is not ideal for rapid-scan readers hunting through dozens of videos. it turns out that, when reading titles or headlines, it takes a moment to visually adjust to words being so demurely typed.
AND, IN ADDITION TO CAUSING YOU SOMETHING OF A HEADACHE, TEXT SET IN ALL CAPS IS THE LEAST LEGIBLE BECAUSE HUMAN EYES RECOGNIZE WORDS BY BOTH THEIR SHAPE AND THEIR INCLUDED LETTERS. TYPING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS ENSURES THAT EACH WORD HAS THE SAME SHAPE AND, THEREFORE, TAKES LONGER TO READ.
Finally, we have the eponymous Title Case: Human Language’s Gold Standard for Titles and Headlines.
User-anticipated and legible, title casing makes title-scanning a breeze. And while search rank is unaffected by a video title’s letter casing, you can be darn sure that Optimizing a Video Title for Human Eyes will affect viewer click-thru rates and reader comprehension.
Now that you have some typographical context, are you ready to play, “Spot the [Most] Legible Title”? You remember the choices:
TITLE #1 | CAPACITOR EXPERIMENT EPIC FAIL
title #3 | epic fails of history #1
So, my dear and clever and admirably patient reader, which title do you find most legible? And, which title would you click?
Feel free to leave answers in the comments or to address them in a strongly-cased letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concerned that artful title casing is an incomplete video optimization strategy? Access more of the metrics that matter, right on the YouTube Watch Page, with vidIQ’s free Chrome Extension.